The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro) announced this week that they will begin randomly inspecting passengers' bags. According to the press release, passengers who decline to submit to this search will be allowed to leave; however, the Washington Post reported that Metro officials said "police will give extra scrutiny to individuals who turn around or act suspiciously", and that "if illegal items such as drugs are found, they will be confiscated as evidence, and police will cite or arrest the individual."
I guess I shouldn't be surprised by this. After all, the bombings in Madrid's and London's rail systems, and on Israel's buses, show that public transit is a very soft target that terrorists do not hesitate to exploit, and apparently Boston and New York already have such a search program. Still, it disappoints and upsets me. The Metro officials whose comments are reported in the paper are already showing that the searches will be used for other purposes than ensuring the safety of the transit system. Similarly, the Bush administration has shown that they are more than willing to use customs searches to further other objectives.
I can see this being misused to arrest protesters who want to take public transportation to exercise their First Amendment rights, or to arrest people for possessing whatever other item that the people in power consider to be worth targeting. Rolling papers? Mace? Circuit boards? And sooner or later, someone will decide that this is a great way to snag illegal immigrants, with the result that some legal aliens and citizens will be hassled.
There go more of our rights down the tubes thanks to the War on Terror.